$4.5 million grant to establish research center


Associated Press

Posted on November 19, 2013 at 10:01 AM

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) — A $4.5 million federal grant will help University of Michigan researchers study how technology may help young adults with disabilities improve their health and become more independent, officials announced Tuesday.

The five-year grant from the U.S. Department of Education's National Institute of Disability and Rehabilitation Research will help launch the university's new Rehabilitation Engineering and Research Center, the Ann Arbor school said in a statement.

"These youth are not only transitioning from childhood to the responsibilities of adult living but also face other obstacles from their injury or disability that makes this a critical period for developing skills they need to be independent," said RERC Director Michelle Meade, an associate professor in the Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Department of the university's Medical School.

Researchers plan to look at the potential of smartphone and tablet computer apps, a University of Michigan-developed video game and other technologies to help people with spinal cord dysfunction and neurodevelopmental disabilities.

With their work, researchers will explore how technology already familiar to younger groups, such as mobile devices and video games, can be used to implement innovative types of support, reminders and motivation for young adults with spina bifida, cerebral palsy and other disabilities.

"There are some things you physically can't fix but there are so many things you can do to improve quality of life - our job is to keep seeking innovative tools that will help these youth lead productive lives," Meade said.

As part of the center, Meade will lead a clinical trial next year that explores how the university-developed video game — an app for mobile game-playing devices that can be played using anything from hands to a mouth stick — may improve health behaviors among adolescents with spinal cord dysfunction.

The center will involve researchers and clinicians from the university's departments of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation and Internal Medicine, College of Engineering, College of Pharmacy, School of Public Health and the School of Information.

The full name of the center is the "Rehabilitation Engineering and Research Center on Technology Increasing Knowledge: Technology Optimizing Choice."